Volunteering – the old 80/20 rule

  • By: Al Smith, President and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce

Volunteering.  There seems to be in the human psyche, an innate urge to take our talents and share them with others – whether it is civic, religious, charitable, neighborly or otherwise.   As the CEO of the Fresno Chamber, I’ve had the privilege to observe many volunteers of this 1,400 member organization that support the Chamber mission.

And like most organizations, the old 80/20 rule applies.  Only a handful of people actually dig in and commit themselves to all the activities the Chamber needs, the majority does not. But that’s OK.

There is an old request we make of our members that they give two of three things: time, talent or treasure.  The majority provide us treasure, their financial contribution. And we certainly couldn’t exist without that.  But there is a core of members that provide a tremendous amount of their daily/weekly time being a physical part of our many Chamber activities.

One can’t help but ask, “Why do they do that?”  What motivates members to leave business and families to utilize their leisure time to work on behalf of the Chamber’s goals? I asked that question to a small group of active volunteers and I thought I would share their responses.

Scott Miller of Gazebo Gardens: “The value is hard to articulate because it operates on several levels….the civic level where one’s business benefits directly and the personal level –   Chamber people work hard and play hard. They are fun to be around.”

Rick Whitsell of Fresno First Bank: “[The Chamber is] the go-to place for businesses to get things done.  The business community and the community at large come together to discuss ways to improve our community; to share ideas and success stories; to get a pulse of what is going on.  It gives the appropriate focus on government legislation to insure a positive impact on the community.”

Ruth Evans of Evans HR Group: “Working with businesses large and small, I understand the challenges of dealing with the incredible amount of government regulation – companies afraid of being blackballed from government for speaking out.

Small business owners who struggle daily with work, finances and managing their business, still benefit from the Chamber’s voice and ability to be an equalizer.  I love the interaction with professional peers; getting together letting our hair down – joking around and enjoying each other. And it’s an inexpensive way to keep my company’s name in front of the community.  Finally, you can’t influence from the sidelines – you have to get in the game.”

Matt Rosenfeld of KSEE 24/CBS 47 television stations: “Serving and giving is good for the soul. It’s my responsibility as a citizen.  Working together can make our community strong, change our image and improve our self esteem.  The Chamber is in lock step with my beliefs.  It represents the business community at a high level and is excellent to network and make business connections.  This Chamber is a magnet for great people.”

Sieg Fischer of the Valley Yellow Pages: “The Chamber has a genuine concern about the well being of the community.  People have an innate or learned desire to make a positive contribution to the community versus those with an entitlement attitude.  The Chamber allows for our desire for recognition, esteem by others, self esteem, economic benefit and public relations.  I participate to give back and ensure that the economic system that afforded me the opportunity to succeed be perpetuated.”

Debbie Hunsaker of Alert-O-Lite:  “I’ve been involved in issues concerning transportation.  By being active it allows me to provide input based on my knowledge of challenges, hoping to help the Chamber make more informed decisions.  I developed great friendships – some that have developed into business relationships.

I love the ability to laugh, share challenges and success with others.  I have access to decision makers and programs I would not normally be aware of or invited to.  Through the Chamber I am more informed about what’s coming down the pike.  It allows me to be prepared.  This organization also helps me stay in compliance with the ever changing laws that affect us. I cannot imagine any successful business not being a part of the Chamber.”

Al Solis of Sol Development:  “The Chamber is loaded with interesting people who get an inside view of the business community and can make a positive difference in our community.  Through the Chamber we have the valuable ability to share knowledge.  Also, its Political Action Committee works to elect officials that improve our free enterprise system.

It is uplifting to see the addition of fun being a part of a serious issue as economic vitality. But that is exactly what this group brings to the table.  High performance – goal oriented – passionate and fun to be around.”

This 20% can easily be expanded to include you.  Come join the group in improving the area in which we live and have a good time doing it.  Volunteer. 


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